By Lillian Sims / Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
In a Drama I class at Grenada High School, 21 students are engrossed in the text they are reading. They give it away by turning their pages in perfect unison — no confused stragglers.
The text is Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” and the students are experiencing team teaching. Kim Porter, a graduate of Mississippi State University (originally in Communications, and later in an education program), is a mentor teacher. She stands at a lectern at the front of the room, and Kellie Rushing, her student teaching intern for this semester, sits at a desk nearby.
Rushing, of Meridian, is in the final semester of the teacher education program at Mississippi State University. She will be in Porter’s classroom for most of the semester as preparation for having her own teaching job after graduation. Her endorsement area is Speech Communication, and she hopes to teach high school English and public speaking. As a William Winter Scholar, she will work for at least two years and may then pursue graduate school.
She is the daughter of Brady and Kim Rushing of Meridian and a graduate of Southeast Lauderdale High School, and attended Meridian Community College and then Mississippi State. According to her mentor, she’s ready to be out on her own.
“Teachers have to love their subject matter,” Porter said. “Kellie loves theater, and you can tell. That goes a long way and kids pick up on that. Porter teachers first period, and then Rushing takes the reins for the rest of the day.
“She jumped right in rather than sitting back and just watching me, and she’s doing really well,” Porter said.
Although Rushing has only been in the classroom a few weeks, she can draw on a teaching philosophy that she has been developing throughout her time in the teacher education program at Mississippi State.
Rushing believes that constantly asking questions rather than simply lecturing helps her students grasp concepts on their own.
“I have to find ways to do a lot of one-on-one in some classes,” Rushing said. “Learning to adjust timing and plans, and getting to know the students, are so important.”
Rushing uses differentiation — a teaching strategy that tailors instruction to the individual level — to maximize the effectiveness of her lessons. She also employs a technique called scaffolding, which involves constantly repeating and re-using information that was taught previously, in order to promote long-term retention.
Her classes at MSU helped prepare her for her own classroom through assignments like planning units, studying learning styles, and creating valid assessments. The biggest adjustment? “Going from a college class schedule to working full time,” said Rushing, who arrives at the high school at 7:15 each morning, and stays after school each day to prepare for the next. She has 140 students, with most classes holding about 25.
“It was a lot to take in at first, but Mrs. Porter gives me lots of advice on planning and answers all of my questions,” Rushing said. “I sat poker-faced for a week, just observing the classes, and then developed a different personality for each class, depending on what is best for each group.”
For Rushing, as for many teachers, classroom management is a top priority.
“You have to address behavior issues immediately,” she said. “I did have to come in stern because a lack of respect for authority, and especially for student teachers, can be a big problem.”
So far, she has kept a good balance. One of the 10h graders in Drama I commented: “We feel like ourselves with her because she’s close to our age and we get to talk more in this class. I like the acting and getting to be myself.”
He’s also a big fan of “The Mousetrap.”
“It’s very mysterious,” the student said. “I want to know who the killer is!”
Rushing explained why she pushes all of her students to succeed: “Among those who don’t care there are always those who do, and you can’t give up on any of them because you never know who you might be able to help.”